UPTE-CWA E-Bulletin: January 29, 2008

(1) Staywell: Unions Opt Out Of Program Because of Potentially Dangerous Consequences
(2) TX/RX: Sign Petition On Benefits and Wages To Faculty
(3) HX: Got Equity?
(4) Inadequate Health Care Plan Stopped And Budget Woes: You Can Have A Say!

(1) Staywell: Unions Opt Out Of Program Because of Potentially Dangerous Consequences
UC has contracted with Staywell as a long term strategy to keep health care costs down by targeting our ?unhealthy? habits. While we all strive to live more healthy lives, we have serious concerns about Staywell, a for-profit company whose website banner reads "Changing Behavior, Changing Lives To Lower Your [i.e UC's] Health Care Costs."

At the Alta Bates/Summit hospital in the Bay Area, a program similar to Staywell penalizes employees up to $200 per month for not completing ?voluntary? surveys. Similar programs also set penalties for employees who do not follow the ?recommendations? they are given for a healthier life style. If that is the kind of plan Staywell will become at UC, we need to stop it now before we are stuck with it for the long term.

UPTE-CWA and other UC unions met with representatives of Staywell and the UC benefits office to get answers to our concerns. We remain unconvinced and will opt out of the program for 2008 because:

  • Possible future financial penalties: according to its own publicity, "Staywell strongly recommends that financial incentives be incorporated into the HA [Health Assessment] implementation strategy" and UC refuses to rule out such incentives or penalties in the future. Penalties could take the form of increased premiums or co-pays for employees who do not fill out the HA or follow Staywell's recommendations.

  • Legal protections against discrimination may not apply: the Wall Street Journal reports that "Supplemental insurance is exempt from HIPAA, giving employers the potential to penalize or reward employees based on their health status."

  • Confidentiality uncertain: UC has already provided the names and Social Security numbers of all non-union employees to Staywell without asking for authorization. The Staywell survey asks for family history of cancer, drinking and driving, and other sensitive information. While Staywell has placed a question in the survey that allows participants to have their identifying information removed when their information is shared with the insurers, we remain concerned that insurers will advocate getting the identifying information to maximize their cost savings. We also have concerns about the security of the electronic data, given recent news reports about data security breaches.

  • Insurance companies may use information to our detriment: Even if our survey response is passed on without identifying information, insurance companies can still use the information to design plans to reduce their costs (e.g. cover less psychiatric help, etc.). If the information were being shared with our physician, we could understand that it might be to our benefit, but why share it with an insurance company, which has lots of financial incentives that could result in worse health care for us?

  • Lack of information: UC has still not provided us with its contract with Staywell, stating that it is not final. How can UC not have a final contract when the work is already being performed? UC has not answered many other questions, including how Staywell will keep our information secure.

UPTE-CWA wants to work with UC to develop a long term strategy to provide less expensive and better quality health care that does not compromise our confidentiality. Here are some ideas we want to develop:

  • Real health care reform that reduces insurance profits and controls administrative costs, such as the single-payer proposal (see UPTE-CWA's health care primer ).
  • Utilize UC health care facilities staffed by our union members.
  • Healthy living opportunities we control.

Share your input and questions on the UPTE web forum to discuss Staywell and how we can improve our health care at UC.

(2) TX/RX: Sign Petition on Benefits and Wages To Faculty
Faculty members and supervisors value retaining quality staff but do not always see how difficult it is to survive on our salaries. Hearing from us about how far we lag behind market pay despite our recent wage increases will encourage them to support our bargaining demands for fair raises this year. Hearing that UC is planning pay cuts to fund the pension plan as well as to shift health care costs will not only encourage faculty support, but also raise concerns about how such changes might impact them, too.

To show UC that we are determined to achieve decent, long-term jobs, all members should personally sign the petition to faculty. The petition is being distributed by union activists in all workplaces. By signing the petition you show UC that we stand unified in our demands for a contract with fair wages that are not eroded by pension contributions and increased health care premiums.

Contact your local UPTE-CWA office to get a copy of the petition as soon as possible.

(3) HX: Got Equity?
The HX contract that we negotiated last year provided equity increases for many, but not all, titles. This spring our contract provides us with an opportunity to discuss additional equity increases. At each medical center, a team of UPTE-CWA members will meet with UC to justify and advocate for market pay.

If you believe you remain underpaid, contact your local UPTE-CWA office immediately so that we can work with you to research your pay equity concerns and include them in our proposals to UC.

(4) Real Reform of Health Care And Budget Woes: You Can Have A Say!

This week, the ?mandatory insurance? health care plan proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez was defeated in the state's Senate Health Committee. The plan fell far short of the kind of health care reform Californians need. While providing insurance to some of the state's poorest residents, there were no cost controls on what insurance companies could charge for the coverage we'd be forced to purchase, and no minimum standards on what the mandatory insurance would cover. In this case, bad reform would have been an impediment to real reform by strengthening the insurance industry, the most powerful opponent of real change and the greatest profiteer of the current system.

Over the next months, lawmakers in Sacramento will struggle with an anticipated $14 billion shortfall. We are not yet sure how this will impact the University of California budget. We will support adequate funding of the university. At the same time, we will remind UC that most of our funding does not come from the state, and therefore our wage increases should not be withheld when there is adequate funding.

You can get involved in this exciting policy-making by attending the UPTE-CWA legislative training and lobby on February 11 and 12 in Sacramento. The first day will include training on the issues, legislative process and how to speak persuasively to lawmakers. The second day will be spent in the capital visiting legislator's offices. Contact your local UPTE-CWA or our systemwide legislative coordinator if you are interested or want more information.

The UPTE E-Bulletin is prepared by UPTE-CWA President Jelger Kalmijn for all members.
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to write him at president@upte-cwa.org . If you wish to have dialogue with other members about UPTE-CWA issues, sign up for our web forum.